Greenfields County, Souville province
In a dim, torch-lit cell.
Levi sat on a wooden stool with one leg crossed over the other as he stared at Gilbert with a detached gaze.
The young man was strapped to a table, a piece of cloth wrapped around his face. By his side stood a knight with a pail of water, which he poured over his face.
Thick hemp ropes wrapped around the body of the young noble, firmly restraining him even as he struggled.
Four fifteen seconds, this procedure continued. Afterwards, the knight stopped dry-drowning Gilbert. He removed the soaked cloth, allowing him to take several gasping breathes of air before returning it.
With a practised motion, the knight lifted the pail to continue.
“Stop,” Levi said calmly, prompting the knight to drop the pail and remove the damp cloth.
Levi stood up from his stool and walked up towards Gilbert’s bound body. Standing by his side, Levi ran a finger over his face.
The young noble flinched at the touch.
His unfocused gaze turned to Levi, laboured breathing rebounding in the otherwise silent cell.
Gilbert’s gaze soon cleared. He shuddered as he recognised Levi’s ever-familiar face. A flash of dread and despair appeared in his eyes.
Levi’s brow rose in amusement.
“How are we doing today, Sir Gilbert?” Levi asked with a smile.
Gilbert shivered. His gaze wavered as a word barely escaped his lips.
Levi’s smile grew warmer.
“It seems your tongue has finally loosened,” he said with a chuckle. “Talking without a prompt? And here I was starting to think we would have to extend this for three more days.”
Shuddering, the fear in Gilbert’s eyes grew fourfold.
With a small smile, Levi spoke.
“Margrave Josh, your father, has begun planning his return to Redwater,” the young lord said softly, the dim torch casting a gloomy light on his face.
“He would arrive at Maidenpool, shortly before the first snow and stay there till the Strega unfreezes early next spring.”
“Don’t look surprised that I know,” Levi said as he stared at Gilbert’s dumbfounded face. “Several of your knights surrendered this information in exchange for leniency on my part. Not everyone is as stubborn as you are.”
“Now Gilbert, you see”—Levi pauses for effect—“your value continues to diminish the longer you refuse to cooperate. You do not want to know what would happen to you if I no longer find you useful”
“Trust me, you do not want that,” Levi said leaning closer.
“…Go, go to hell,” Gibert spat in a slightly shaky voice. “There is no way on Anno I would betray my father.”
Levi paused, his expression impassive. Then he smiled. It was a very friendly smile.
“Sir Turiel,” Levi said to the knight by the side as he turned to walk away.
“Yes, my Liege.”
“Bring our friend here along and follow me.
“There is something that needs to be properly explained to him.”
Outside the dungeon, in an open field.
Levi, sir Turiel and Gilbert stood in front of an open grave, a pile of upturned earth by the side.
“Do you like it?” Levi asked, causing the knight to glance strangely at him.
“Not you,” he corrected, turning to face the captive. “Gilbert.”
“Huh?” The man in question whimpered a noise of confusion. He struggled to turn to face Levi due to being restrained and gagged by hemp ropes.
Levi gave a squinting smile before turning back to face the grave, his expression fading and turning bland.
The knight faltered for a moment before complying. He gave the bound Gilbert one last glance before leaving the site.
Levi watched until the knight walked away before turning back to Gilbert.
“It is quite deep, isn’t it?” he said peeking into the grave. “The serfs are a really hardworking bunch, are they not. Or is it just because they have higher levels in grave-digging than the rest of us?
“What an enviable bunch.”
Gilbert stared apprehensively at him.
“Ah, right,” Levi said, tapping his forehead in realisation, “we barely even know each other.
“I didn’t really get the chance to know you. Usually, I try to understand my problems before getting rid of them. I don’t know what has gotten into me lately.
“Why don’t you begin? Tell me something fun about yourself for a start.”
Levi turned to face Gilbert, the gagged man staring strangely at him.
“Ah, forgive me,” Levi said tapping his forehead again. He scooted closer to Gilbert, letting his feet dangle inside the grave. “I promise, I usually only get like this when I am really excited. Like, really excited. Ok, I will start then.
“You probably know this already, but my name is Ja- Levi von Greifenburg. I am… seventeen? Yes, seventeen. And the title of my favourite work of fiction is ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’. I love the dude. I mean, who doesn’t love a protagonist with a twisted back story.”
“I also really like anime, hentai too, but you probably don’t know what that means. But, I do love playing strategy board games, MMORPG, and vehicular MMO wargaming as well, especially while listening to good ol’ Japanese opening songs to get me in the mood. Also, I think I am developing a fetish for chocolate muffins, given how I cannot seem to stop carving for them ever since I got here.”
“I am sure you are wondering why I am telling you all of this? Well, I want you to understand the kind of person I am. To understand the gravity of what you have done, so it will be easier for you to rationalize what comes next.”
Levi stood up, dusting his bottom of the dirt staining it. He walked behind Gilbert. The young man’s gaze was unable to follow Levi movement due to his restraints, but he felt a foot press onto his back. It forced his kneeling form to lean precariously further into the dug hole.
His gaze widen in bewilderment as Levi tipped him in with an odd shout. With a dull thud and a pained grunt, he hit the floor.
“You see, Gilbert,” Levi began as he strolled towards the pile of loose earth on the other side of the pit. He yanked a shovel out of the mound,
“I like to think of all of this as some kind of twisted game. You and every other unimportant person in this world as NPCs.
“To be honest, I really didn’t care for the stunt you pulled by sending me that letter the other day.”
Squatting by the grave’s edge, he continued.
“It was amusing while it lasted. It gave me something challenging to do when I arrived, as well as provide a sufficiently fulfilling reward afterwards.
“In fact, I commend you for being the first exhilarating source of entertainment I encountered in a long time. Ever since I got stuck in that darb, sterile room, with only humourless caretakers as a company I have wished for such excitement in my life.
“Our first encounter was quite fun. And although your stubbornness since your capture has been annoying, I tolerated it. Initially, because I was in a good mood and later because Lancelot kept insisting you were useful for some reason.
“But now? Not so much. You see I am a very simple person, it is either I like you… Or I don’t.
I don’t like you, Gilbert. And at this point, even your staunchest supporters are finding it hard to justify your worth and convince me to keep you alive.
“You are a waste of space. A problem. A troublesome NPC…
“Just like Harriet from RedDead!”
Gilbert listened and watched with an increasingly alarmed expression.
“But don’t worry,” Levi said suddenly, flashing a comforting smile,” You are not completely useless. You can always be used as a bad example.”
With those words, Levi started shovelling.
Gilbert squirmed as the dirt poured on him one scoop at a time, fear suffusing his gaze. He looked greatly alarmed upon meeting Levi’s even stare, a faint smile hanging off the corner of the young lord’s lips.
Gilbert’s heart felt like it dropped into an icy cold cavern. His whimpers growing louder as the seconds went by.
“My therapist once told me don’t bury my issues,” Levi said, pausing to catch his breath, “but I will be honest, man, I am feeling great!”
Levi began whistling a tune.
Gilbert snivelled and wailed mutedly, his tears drawing clean lines across his clay-stained face. His threshing and writhing threw the dirt off his body, but he was only delaying the inevitable. And he knew.
The pit was slowly, but surely, being filled up.
“…Pl-please, please stop! I don’t want to die!”
Levi stopped whistling and glanced down at Gilbert, surprised.
Somehow, the bound man had managed to wiggle free of his gags. Levi stared for a second longer before a chuckle escaped his lips.
“Ok, since you managed to surprise me, let me hear what you have to say.”
Gilbert sobbed a reply.
“Please don’t kill me. I don’t want to die,” he looked pitiful.
Levi raised a brow.
“And why should I do that?” he asked. “I don’t think you understand what dying entails. if you did, I am sure you won’t be so repulsed about the idea.”
Despite himself, Gilbert still managed to give Levi a confused look.
Levi sighed, seeing his expression. He stabbed the shovel into the mound before squatting to explain.
“You see,” he said, “I was once like you.
“Afraid of death. Pathetic. But not too long ago, I got to experience everything first hand. And trust me when I say, it was a great experience.
“Life… Life is a sexually transmitted disease. Terminal. Only transmittable via intimate sexual contact. Simple. Crude. Boring. But death? Death is a very intricate ordeal.
“When you die, you get all the time in the world. Time to contemplate your choices in life, to reassess certain mortal desires and vanities. Time to connect with your inner self.
“It is like blinking for an exceptionally long moment, only to open your eyes and discover things can only get better from that point on. And the best of all, death come in many different ways. It allows ample variety.”
Levi stood up and walked towards the shovel, ignoring a snivelling, confused Gilbert.
“I am not sure how your death will be,” he added, plucking the shovel, “or if you manage to come back from it. But, I am sure it would be a splendid, eye-opening experience for you, Gilbert. So enjoy it!”
Gilbert panicked again seeing Levi scoop another pile of dirt.
“PLEASE!” he shouted,” please stop!”
“What now? Levi asked. A hint of annoyance permeated his tone.
“I-I will do it. Anything! I will do anything! Please, just don’t kill me,” he sobbed. “I don’t want to die.”
“Really?” the young lord perked up before frowning doubtfully. “If so, then why did you make me go through the stress of trying to bury you alive before you agreed?
“Was this some elaborate scheme to get me to hurt my back? Are you trying to get back at me for something?” Levi asked, squinting suspiciously.
Gilbert paled and was dumbfounded. “No. No, I swear. I did not. I will do anything. Please.”
“Hmm…” Levi squinted suspiciously. “Ok, fine, but you are staying here till morning. That will be your punishment for stressing me out unnecessarily.”
“Thank you,” Gilbert sobbed, collapsing back into the dirt upon seeing Levi drop the shovel, “thank you.”
Levi walked away from the pit, yawning with a tired expression.
“The movies always made it seem so easy, but burying someone alive really is hard work,” he muttered to himself once out of earshot.
His left hand reached up to rub his sore right shoulder as he said with a chuckle.
“I hope I level up grave-digging soon.”
“Had fun, my Lord?” A voice asked from behind a tree on Levi’s path.
The reincarnator looked around the aged tree trunk to see Lancelot staring back. Poker-faced. It was hard to tell what was going on in the viscount’s mind.
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